By Anja Springthorpe

Coconut oil has become a popular health food.  Media attention to its proposed health benefits and countless celebrity endorsements have likely contributed to coconut oils’ widespread popularity.  But do the health claims really stack up?

Coconut oil contains no fiber, no minerals nor vitamins, but high amounts of saturated fats.  In fact, it has a higher percentage of saturated fat than butter or lard.  How can this be a superfood?  Most saturated fats originate from animals.  Coconut oil originates from a plant, has a different chemical structure and is metabolized differently. 

While most saturated fats raise “bad” cholesterol levels, coconut oil actually increases levels of “good” cholesterol.  Healthy levels of good cholesterol reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks or stroke.  A study published in the British Medical Journal confirms such findings and further reports that coconut oil appears to have similar benefits as olive oil when it comes to heart health.

Research conducted in Japan found that daily consumption of coconut oil significantly improves weight loss, particularly the loss of abdominal, or belly, fat.  It is believed that the fat in coconut oil is utilized by the liver, rather than stored in fat cells.  Furthermore, coconut oil consumption reduces blood pressure, improves blood sugar levels and its anti-inflammatory effect offers a wide range of health benefits.

Coconut oil is a healthy alternative to animal-derived saturated fats, but its consumption should be moderate, not excessive.  All oils and fats have a high calorie count and can lead to weight gain.  Coconut oil can safely be used for baking, cooking, smoothies or home-made energy balls. 

Virgin coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconuts without chemicals, and unrefined oil, and provide the most health benefits.  Avoid hydrogenated and refined coconut oils.  These often contain chemicals and additives, are bleached and may contain trans-fats.

Coconut oil may lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar levels and is anti-inflammatory

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